I remember seeing the trailer on a Nintendo Indie Direct for The Red Lantern game a few months back and since then had been anticipating the release. It looked like The Long Dark, but with huskies, a survival game where you have to not only keep yourself alive but also your team of adorable sled-dogs. I wasn’t that far off in prediction. However, it wound up being more like Oregon Trail than a complicated survival game.

You start off adopting four dogs to join your pet husky, Chomper, to make your team complete. I enjoyed being able to pick who I wanted to adopt and genuinely felt bad for walking away from the ones I didn’t want. On your journey, you will bond, see character arcs, and pet your pooches. Sometimes they get hurt, and you need to make sure they get food and rest if you want to make it. Each dog has a specialty, like Fin being able to find treasures and Stilton having a sharp eye for ptarmigans.

Along with your team, you have minimal supplies you take with you: food, first aid, bullets, and birch for starting fires. Once you “mush on,” there’s road splits where you either shout “haw” for left and “gee” for right. As you travel, you can hunt for more food, find tools to help you along the way, and meet friendly and not-so-friendly animals. Your end goal is to make it to your new home with the titular red lantern in front of it.

I can’t imagine anyone making it home on their first run, as I found most of the gameplay is sort of trial and error. You play the musher as she learns from her mistakes and packs more supplies on the next round you play after losing. The player is also encouraged to try new reactions to events, like seeing what happens when you follow a baby bear. Would you shoot it, or wait and see what happens? Your journal’s filled with the new things you learn and an updated list of supplies to pack at the end of each round.

The events along the way are procedurally generated but still lead to repetition, especially if you need to start over. The gameplay is minimal, with most of your actions done by choosing an option when you enter an event. The most gameplay is found when you hunt, which involves timing a bouncing ball to be in a ring that you can slow down.

I felt that the voice actress did a good job sounding natural and full of character, but I would skip through her dialogue when events would repeat. The visuals reminded me of concept art, and the music was well done.

Overall The Red Lantern is full of heart and charm, but with some disappointing execution that had much potential. The journey felt short, and I noticed a few bugs, at one point getting so bad I had to restart. I feel like it is too short to be $24.99. But if you love dogs, making choices, and the great Alaskan wilderness, this game would be worth picking up if on sale.